Finding ourselves amid the third wave, we, as South Africans, are unfortunately reminded again that the Covid-19 virus is still going to be with us for quite some time. Even though the topic of nutrition and immunity was covered extensively at the beginning of this global pandemic, we found it appropriate for a refresher.

Before we go on, the most important thing to remember is that there are no quick fixes to “boost” our immune system, such as with “superfoods” or supplements. Continuing the practice of good hygiene and social distancing remains the first-line approach to avoid infection.

Now that that is covered, optimizing health and wellness with a well-balanced diet can support the immune system. This does not mean you will be immune to the virus, but rather that your immune system will be equipped to maintain good nutritional status, which can reduce the risk of becoming severely ill, and improve your outcomes should you contract the virus [1].

Nutrition plays an important role in the recovery time of Covid-19 and reduces the risk for complications. The main goal of nutrition in recovery is to supply the body with adequate nutrients to support healing [2].


So how can we support our immune system?

Firstly, limiting foods high in salt, sugar and saturated and trans fats is a great start as excess leads to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers. This can weaken your body against covid-19 and other diseases [3].


Secondly, eating healthy food and drinking lots of clean water strengthens the immune system [3].

  • Focus on enjoying a variety of eating patterns that emphasizes minimally processed and predominantly plant-based foods across all food groups, namely fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Minimally processed means that the food has undergone minimal processing – not too much was added or taken away from the food in its original condition. Regular consumption of these foods lowers our risk for most chronic diseases and decreases the severity of high-risk conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol [4].
  • The key to these benefits is fibre and phytochemicals. Fibre protects our gastrointestinal tract by providing fuel for our gut lining and keeps you regular. Fibre also stimulates the immune system and balances blood sugar levels [5].
  • Phytochemicals are compounds in plant foods that provide them with their distinct colour, taste and other characteristics [6]. They can enhance our immunity, improve our cholesterol levels and reduce our risk for chronic diseases of lifestyle. They are anti-inflammatory and loaded with antioxidants [4].

Lastly, habits that go beyond good nutrition such as sleep, exercise and stress management is also important for good immune function.

If you feel like this is easier said than done, please join us for an exciting webinar where we will chat
about:

  • How to practice healthy eating habits.
  • Buying healthy foods on a budget.
  • Preparing easy, flavourful and healthy meals.
  • Nutritional advice for those recovering from Covid-19.

See you there!

Bibliography
[1] N. de Almeida, “Nutrition and Immune Health,” Association for Dietetics in South Africa: Nutrition Confidence Blog, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://nutritionconfidence.wordpress.com/2020/12/18/nutrition-and-immune-health/. [Accessed 9 July 2021].
[2] O. Naidoo, “Recovering from Covid-19? Here’s what you need to know about nutrition,” Association for dietetics in South Africa: Nutrition Confidence Blog, n.d. [Online]. Available: https://nutritionconfidence.wordpress.com/2021/06/22/recovering-from-covid-19-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-nutrition/. [Accessed 9 7 2021].
[3] Department of Basic Education; SAMHS; UNICEF; ADSA; CANSA; NSSA; WWF; Spies, L; Engelbrecht, L, “National Nutrition and Obesity week,” Good Nutrition for Good Immunity, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.nutritionweek.co.za/NNW2020/. [Accessed 9 July 2021].
[4] J. Hever, “Plant-Based Diets: A Physician’s Guide,” Permanente Journal, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 93-101, 2016.
[5] M. Rossi, Eat Yourself Healthy, Italy: Penguin Random House UK, 2019.
[6] E. Whitney and S. Rolfes, Understanding Nutrition, 12th ed., Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2011.

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